Manda's Musings


Navigating my way through the NERFA labeled halls of the Crowne Plaza in downtown Stamford, Connecticut last Friday, I was seeking out the workshop on children’s performing.

I followed all arrows yet came to a crossroads. I looked and looked. Then I listened. A clatter and chatter and chirping of children from the right corridor. With grin in face, I followed their calling.

The fortunate group of Stamford 3rdgraders (and performers) shared an energetic, fun and educational experience facilitated by the highly skilled work of Reggie Harris, Dave Fry, Sally Rogers and Two of a Kind.

Reggie Harris brought slavery and the Underground Railroad to light through singing and riveting storytelling; Dave Fry injected kooky songs with ridiculously marvelous movement into the mix; Sally Rogers introduced her Appalachian dulcimer and songs celebrating kind humanity; and Two of a Kind emceed, getting things going on a welcoming note and wrapping things up with a fun group sing-off.

It’s heartening to witness folks’ fine art of sharing with children.



I have been racking my brain trying to figure out where I took this pic. I found it in my email sent from my iPhone but now my iPhone has no memory of it and so I am at a loss. Does anyone know where it’s from?

I do know, however, why I took the pic – because I love this piece! Of course it may be because it mirrors my mind – but – let it be so.

I’d love to see some pics of your favorite art!


My stepdaughter Alice lives in Squirrel Hill. We visited a couple Mays ago for her Masters graduation. We went to see Vance Gilbert at a Squirrel Hill house concert happening on the same weekend. The Tree of Life synagogue is a five-minute walk from Alice’s house.

Through the horrific and heart wrenching shooting I’ve come to learn more about Squirrel Hill. One, that it was the home of Mister Rogers. But even more notably, that it’s one of our first United State’s homes to the Jewish Reform movement – a practice based on the evolving nature of faith rather than a practice steeped in staid doctrine.

From childhood Judaism drew me in. By choice, around age twelve, I read Chaim Potok’s The Promise and The Chosen.  In college, Elie Wiesel and Chaim Potok were two of the three most riveting speakers I heard – Maya Angelou being the third.

However, it was in Amherst when I attended the funeral of a professor’s spouse shortly after the death of my mother that the evolving nature of Judaic faith deeply touched me, for the rabbi said, “God, please accept that we are going to be angry.”

I felt accepted and welcomed.


In elementary school we had a book report due on a famous person. Into my hands, my mom placed a Frederick Douglass book. Unable to recall what I read or wrote, Douglass’ name and face are forever imprinted in me. Jettison to last week in front of Framingham McAuliffe Library’s NEW BOOK display. Facing Frederick faced me. I checked it out to rekindle long calcified synapses.

After escaping slavery from the South, dressed as a sailor, Douglass made his home in New Bedford. He married and moved to Lynn. A self-educated prolific writer and speaker, Douglass passionately believed ‘white’ and ‘black’ people (I still wish we’d reference our true colors) could live peacefully side-by-side, and therefore railed against black folks emigrating to Haiti and Africa. With his speaking engagement earnings and money from donors, Douglass started his own newspaper out of Rochester, New York, a hubbub of abolitionist activity. He travelled the world over.

I discovered a few interesting asides: Douglass played violin – especially when feeling melancholy; had a grandson who became a concert violinist; loved having his photograph taken.

I wonder how Frederick Douglass would assess our present national state as regards our ability to see the other as ourselves. How simple the solution seems – yet how achingly elusive.


At the beginning of the summer I could only walk feeling significant pain and stiffness in my right ankle – my Achilles heel to be exact. Each morning I resigned myself to the reality of hobbling around until my ankle/heal area loosened up. I felt comforted by the fact that after the first ten or so minutes of running I’d be free of the pain – probably due to numbing out – until I finished.

Now I wake up to a flexible and fluid pain free right ankle/heel due to consistent exercises and massage from talented physical therapists. I am still mindful to step mechanically soundly and to loosen my clenching toes so as not to over-stress whatever those attachments that reach into the calf. I continue to be astounded and grateful.

I went for weeks without feeling much change but the experts assured me things were on the mend – and they were.

And so I take this moment to marvel at the ingenuity and curiosity of our human species. Well – first at the creation of bodies that can large heal themselves when treated with wisdom – by we human beings who perpetually ask ‘why’ and ‘how’.


Fiction is a friendly oasis – Young Adult fiction, in particular, for me.  I try to read Adult fiction but find, as of late, I put it down part way – perhaps because it perpetuates life’s complexities that negotiate on a daily basis. I want relief.

BUT – I was picking up a book in the Framingham library and on display was a gold hardcover book with a Van Gogh-ish ‘Scream/Starry Night’ print on the cover. ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ by Zora Neale Hurston. I opened to the first page and found a writer who knew the human soul. Those writers I can read:

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.

Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.”



I was listening to WICN 90.5 last night for a bit. Nick Noble, on his radio show ‘Folk Revival’ Thursday nights at 7pm, was doing a kids show. He planned on playing at least one of my kids songs but I had a meeting and so was unable to listen all the way through.

Back in the car at around 8:45pm and closing out the hour was a song I’d heard many times as a child. I’ve performed it a number of times for young audiences. Our parents loved ‘The Limeliters’. The main song that stayed in my psyche from the album we had has informed me throughout my parenting. Though I have lived into it only painfully imperfectly – I hold up and out as an ideal:


I was hunting around for outer space songs and came across a quote – actually, a proverb.

I am continually humbled and inwardly embarrassed whenever I feel surprised by certain ideas and quotes coming from certain lands. I am briefly reminded of driving around the city of Boston with two twenty-something fellows from Poland (they seemed ancient to me at the time). My mother wanted to point out our oldest buildings to them. “We have buildings thousands of years old in Poland” – a ‘duh’ moment that stuck with my preteen self – though clearly I have much more to learn from it!

I am unaware of any substantive knowledge or reasoning present in my thinking to back my biases – they are just – there – floating around – making themselves known when catalysts arrive – which one did – yesterday – as I searched for outer space songs and found this quote – proverb. Apparently Serbia is on my nebulous list.

“Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.” ~Serbian Proverb

Grateful to be reminded we come from the same substance as stars – and earth, for that matter – and that those elements form the basis for my most open minded enlightened thoughts – and my less than stellar ones.

[My amends: to hear more Serbian quotes and proverbs.]


Last week a family member admonished me for the lack of ‘innocence until proven guilty’ in my Brett Kavanaugh entry – of not including Dr. Ford with him in the statement “I cannot profess to know the lies…told or the truth…skirted around.” (And I come close to promising this will be the last I speak of this topic.)

I get it. But there is still a place for the gut!

The hearing was not a criminal trial. It was an opportunity for me to get a sense of our Supreme Court Justice nominee. I will admit to having a VERY demanding (and perhaps at times less than forgiving) moral compass (abashedly at times more for others than myself – and vice versa). I do depend on my gut. I know enough by now (I hope) to not go wholly on that, but, for the better part of my sensibilities, I trust my gut.

I sense an insidiousness wending its way through our national moral fiber. Not just national – but in our worldwide humanity as a whole. Rules and laws and protocol are wielded as weapons against inconvenient facts, truths and love. Desired outcomes prevail over desire for full disclosure. It’s disheartening, dehumanizing and downright sad.

Until lately, I’ve been woefully unaware of our deep divides. I am always taken aback when I see and sense some things as blatantly obvious and true and other folks see and sense the same things as blatantly obvious and true – and opposite to my view.

It is difficult for me to reconcile opposite gut feelings.                         But I guess I just gut to!